A couple of weeks ago we sent Greta, our Communications Assistant to Google to find out more about Digital Tools For Journalists (Google & Otherwise). This was thanks to The Walkley Foundation and free workshops they offer now and again… here’s what she learnt.

Irene Jay Liu, a journalist and Pulitzer finalist who now leads Google News Lab in the Asia Pacific took us journalists through a bunch of great tools and tips including data visualisation, the power of google docs, the perks of advanced search and a whole heap more. 

Journalists arguably have a more important role now – with all the voices and fake news they should be a beacon of truth. The mission of Google Newslab? “Creating a more informed world takes journalists and technologists working together”

Here’s the main info broken down:

Collaborative Google Docs

Did you know that you can transcribe interviews with Google Docs? 

It’s true. What if the interview is in another language? No problem – Google Docs takes care of that too. 

(editors note: It sounded a little too good to be true so I typed up all my notes from the workshop using this tool. At first the voice recognition software seemed to make quite a few errors at the start but apparently it takes a little while to learn your voice)

It works best if the sound source is coming from one person. Irene said that the person who gave her this hot tip transcribes interviews by listening to them off one device like a smartphone with one headphone in and another set of headphones connected to the computer he will be transcribing on. Then he repeats what is said in the interview in a loud clear voice. 

The ‘Explore’ feature in Google Docs

Enables you to search through Google Docs and the web too. 

Long story short: maybe it’s time to ditch Microsoft Word!

Opening and searching through PDFs in Google Docs

Say you have a big long document or article you are using in the research for your podcast or radio show. Google Docs lets you open up PDFs and if you press CTRL + F, you can find the exact topic, quote or section you are after without having to speed read!

Import, right click, open with Google docs to do it. The formatting is taken out but it still works when you want to find that juicy part!


Advanced Search

Knowing how to do an Advanced Search is a really important skill – maybe even as important as learning how to interview. You should use advanced search methods if you want to hone in on exactly what you are looking for. 

The right hand side of google search gives you more information about a person, place or thing you might be searching for. For example if you type in community radio, the right hand side of the search screen will give you more information from other sources like Wikipedia. It always gives you the most general and obvious answers. 

The thing is though… journalists and content creators are often looking for information that might not be obvious or meant for the public. 

For example if a webpage is taken down but you still want to access that information for your show or podcast click the little green triangle next to the indexed Google page and you can see the Cached (hidden) version. You might use this if you need to access a quote or bio of someone who has just pulled out of their role in the public sector or something like that.  

Another great resource for internet archives is Waybackmachine. It takes snapshots of webpages over time.. pretty much since the beginning of the internet. Check it out! You can also ask it to start archiving any page you want. This is useful for when you have to use forums etc for information. 

 Take a look at this extensive document Google put together about search engine optimisation


Google scholar

Google scholar lets you browse through legal content, certified scholarly papers and is particularly handy because it makes it easy to filter results and get exactly what you want. This can be particularly handy when you’re doing research for a particular story or project. 

It can also send you alerts as new info emerges!

Converting data

Tabula lets you download free charts and tables from PDFs also look up the PDF tables – it’s very handy for data journalism. 


Google trends

Google trends is a great growing tool by Google that allows you to search through all the data on Google, Youtube and Google News. Whilst it doesn’t go into as much depth as say a survey or poll would, it lets you know what is trending at certain times and in what locations. It has a huge dataset which can work in your favour when you’re trying to figure out what content to create for your station or website. For example you can take a look at when the term ‘selfie stick’ was first being googled and who was googling it first. This could help you create a piece on radio about ‘who was first to use the selfie-stick’. You catch our drift?

You can also search for topics against each other like Donald Trump versus Selfie Sticks. Which topic was most popular, at what time and where! There are heaps of story ideas just waiting to be told through Google Trends. The example that Irene gave was the amount of people googling ‘Move to Canada’ in the US over time. It is no surprise that there was a spike in 2016 in people Googling this phrase. 


Data visualisation

Make graphs that you can embed in your website or blog through Google Sheets. All you have to do is write the topic in one column and the number in the second comment. They have an interactive map function based on country names as well which can help you create a very handy heat map.


For more information head to The Google News Lab website

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